Each day before he heads out to practice, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie sits in front of his locker and tries to decide what kind of superhero he feels like. And then he puts on his cleats.
The Giants' newest and most-likely best cornerback has been sporting a six-pack of comic book-inspired kicks since the spring. And now that the team is in training camp, well, let's just say the boring duds of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne haven't been seen in these parts for a while.
"It depends on the mood of the day," he said this week before a Giants workout. "Some days if we are playing a lot of man to man, I tend to put on the faster superheroes because that's a day I feel like we'll have to do a lot of running. It just depends on my mood. You can tell by what kind of cleats I have on what kind of day it's going to be."
The Under Armour cleats -- which retail for about $140 a pair and are lined up fastidiously in his locker -- are in the color and design of Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America, Flash and Batman. Oh, and a special sixth one, a blue and white camouflage.
"Army fatigues," he said of the only pair he's worn twice so far in camp. "I call those my superheroes because of what the Army does for this country."
In the NFL, where uniforms are supposed to be just that, it can be difficult for a player to stand out on the field.
Rodgers-Cromartie found a way. "I've always been a guy who is into fashion," he said. "I just want to go out there and wear something different. When Under Armour came out with them and I saw Cam Newton rocking them first, I was like 'Man, this is right up my alley.' You can be creative, fun, and still play the game of football. That's definitely something I enjoy doing."
Moore and his mask
Rodgers-Cromartie isn't the only one trying to set himself apart with unique equipment. Defensive end Damontre Moore has changed up his facemask this year, not only to come into compliance with updated league rules but to give himself a standout look. Moore's design sort of swoops down around the jaw and appears to have arching eyebrows.
"I really like the way it looks," he said this week. "I like being different and unique. I figure my fashion style is a little over the top so I figure that facemask represents me pretty well."
Most players -- including Justin Tuck and Chris Canty, one of whom introduced the tight grid facemask to the league several years ago, depending on which one you ask -- turn to that style to prevent offensive linemen from grabbing their facemasks. They can't get their fingers inside the tiny gaps. It was to protect Canty's eye and Tuck's neck. Moore used that type of facemask last year, but for him it was more style than function. He said he's never had a problem with opposing blockers grabbing him.
The league outlawed those grids this year, so Moore had to find a new look. He made sure the one he is sporting now was in compliance with the league before settling on it with the Giants' equipment staff.
According to a leaguewide memo obtained by NFL.com, research from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment showed that the nonstandard facemasks more frequently fail safety and certification tests and aren't up to NFL safety standards. The University of New Hampshire conducted a study for the NFL and concluded that "the added weight of the masks negatively affects the structure of the helmet, can cause neck fatigue that could lead to a more head-down posture during contact, and can provide a false sense of security during tackling," NFL.com reported.
"They told me last year when I had the facemask similar to Tuck's that that was probably going to be outlawed pretty soon," he said. "With this new facemask I made sure it was cleared by the league. I'm excited because it was cleared by them but by the same token it looks pretty good. It looks different."
Moore admitted that the facemask will mean little if he doesn't play to a certain level and meet expectations.
"At the end of the day it's not so much about fashion, it's about going out and playing," he said. "But I guess it fits into the old saying: You look good, you feel good, you play good. It's one of those things."
Rodgers-Cromartie has a similar belief. Unfortunately for him, his choices will be a little limited on gamedays. While he is free to wear whatever cleats he wants in practices, Sunday shoes must match the color scheme of the official uniform. In this case, that means red, white and blue.
"I can wear the Captain America's because that's the team colors," he said before lighting up with an idea. "Or the Spider-Man's!"
For a cornerback, cleats that make a player feel like he has sticky hands could be just the thing. "Get a couple of picks," he said to that prospect. "Yes sir."